Becoming a GRAY Rock helps to PIVOT away from Toxic behavior

Ever get stuck listening to a complainer?

You know… that person at work that can’t wait to tell you all the things wrong at the agency? Those are the employees you try to avoid, but somehow they find you!


When teaching our Professional Workplace Culture classes, we often ask the question,

“How much time do people waste complaining?” Most of the class laughs and says that they spend up to 80% of their workday listening to toxic banter.

“And why do you spend so much time listening to negativity?” Most shrug and say, they don’t know how to get away from them.

Toxic co-workers don’t know any better than to moan, groan, spread rumors, and spew negativity to others. They typically have low emotional intelligence and live at the bottom of the RITE awareness ladder where Anger, Hate, and Frustration lives.

When you feel Anger or Hate or Frustration, Love and Gratitude and Joy will be absent.

Have you ever been confronted by the toxic co-worker?  Whether it is your zone partner or supervisor, it takes one co-worker to ’bring the morale down’ and change the mood for the whole agency.

Often toxic co-workers will blame others for their own misery. Because they are busy blaming others, they are not willing to see anything good in their life. They’ve made it their job to pull others down with them.


churchill quote


When working with a Toxic Co-Worker…

  1. You may want to yell back at them
  2. Run as fast and far away
  3. Debate them
  4. Fight them, mentally or even physically
  5. Not want to work there anymore
  6. Start looking for another job

When dealing with toxic people in both life and the workplace, becoming like a gray rock may help you move forward.

Leadership Gray Rocking:

Leaders do this well in order to lead others to get the job done. When dealing with toxic people in both life and the workplace, becoming like a gray rock can help you move forward. Gray rocking is an effective strategy that helps you reduce unwanted focus from negative or challenging people.


When you think of a gray rock, words like plain and neutral likely come to mind. Gray rocks blend in and don’t draw your attention, and that’s not a bad thing. They are there, but no one really pays much attention to them.

How does this work? By not responding to their toxic behavior


Gray rocking is a technique used to divert a toxic person’s behavior, by acting as unresponsive as possible when interacting with them.

For example, using the gray rock method involves deliberate actions like avoiding eye contact or not showing emotions during a conversation

Gray Rocking Steps:

  1. Stay neutral and disengaged
  2. Don’t make eye-contact
  3. Don’t show emotions back
  4. Minimize expressions (don’t frown or smile)
  5. Don’t give them attention
  6. Keep interactions short


Types of Toxic Co-Workers where Gray Rocking is useful

  • Narcissistic Self-Serving Employee – Entitled Complex… It’s all about ME!
  • Toxic Leader – No cursing in public, but plenty with subordinates
  • The Bully – insults and belittles co-workers
  • Manipulative Colleague – Creates workplace drama and rumors


Important Note:

Gray rocking should always be a short-term response to irritating or manipulative behaviors.

You shouldn’t have to permanently change who you are to fit in or feel safe.

If someone at work displays threatening behavior or breaches company policies, it’s important to take firmer action beyond the Gray rocking method.

There should be zero tolerance for unprofessional workplace culture like sexual harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environment.

Remember that some people aren’t necessarily toxic, they’re just annoying. Gray rocking can subtly shift their attention and energy elsewhere.


PIVOT Technique:

One – Plan your exit

Once you have tried Gray Rocking and the toxic co-worker continues, start planning an exit strategy.

Two – Time awareness

Become AWARE of the time you’ve wasted on this negative person. Then respectfully advise them that you have other matters to attend to.

Three – On your mark, get set, Pivot

PIVOT away and find matters that are important to you and the agency. Give them a time warning element. Example… I only have two minutes more to give you, and then I need to leave.

Once you PIVOT Away from the situation, don’t look back…keep moving forward to help build VALUE for yourself and the agency.


PIVOT Steps:

  • Be Aware of YOUR Time Spent with Toxic Employee
  • Have a fixed time-limit
  • Announce that you have another matter to attend to
  • PIVOT Away and keep walking
  • Move Forward to building Value for yourself and the agency.


RITE duty to intervene - step in, tap out, take overIf the toxic employee is in Block Out, meaning their actions are inappropriate,  out-of-control (fit of rage), could harm others and/or against departmental policy, you may have to initiate Duty to Intervene.  Step In, Tap Out, and Take Over.

Most Importantly, remember that you have a right to work in a professional workplace culture. Building VALUE inside the organization is key, but also for the community for who the public service professional serves.

You are not helping anyone by wasting time listening to negativity at your workplace. Utilize some of these simple techniques to diffuse negativity and build a stronger workplace culture for everyone.

Building VALUE means everyone inside the organization must be willing to do their part in helping the organization become stronger.

A fence is only as strong as its weakest link!


To help your employees be aware of any unprofessional culture, have your agency implement a Professional Workplace Culture plan.


Professional Workplace Culture Program should include:

  • Professional Workplace Culture Training.
  • Accountability Tools (Issued to All Employees)
  • Professional Workplace Cultural SOP and Guidelines
  • Chief’s Memorandum to all employees – Zero Tolerance for Misconduct.

RITE is ready to help when you are ready for change… see below


RITE Training Classes

At RITE Academy, we provide training to fire, police, EMS, 911 operators and corrections officers. Emotional Intelligence exercises and EI Tools help each person personally be in control of their emotions.

It’s a huge Ah-ha when students ‘wake up’ and realize they have been holding themselves back… and maybe they are the toxic employee that’s been causing the misconduct.

With every class, the LADDER, Stop-Light, and NEW DAY Tools and Banners are included in the training, and left behind for the agency to use. RITE is not a one and done class!


RITE Academy Stats

  1. Trained over 1000 agencies on Professional Workplace Culture
  2. Created over 950 RITE train-the-trainers
  3. Gave out more than 550,000 RITE Tools for employees
  4. Provided hundreds of newsletters for agencies to give to their employees
  5. Helped agencies reduce their use-of-force incidents by 65%
  6. Educated local governments, state, and federal representative on public safety reform

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